Monday, April 11, 2016

Cecil Jack

 Among Janice's life sketches were three of a dapper looking man in a coat and tie.  Any one who saw these commented on him, but I had no idea who he was.  Then lo and behold, I had a post from Marcy Jack Barnes, saying that she had seen watercolors of her father Cecil Jack on my Art in the Family blog.  Needless to say, I was thrilled to hear from her. 

As it turned out, Janice also did a more finished portrait of Mr. Jack, below, and also ones of his wife and two daughters.  Marcy was kind enough to send me images of those, and told me a bit about her father and the experience of having her portrait painted back around 1972.

Cecil Jack
Here is what Marcy had to say about her dad: 

He was a very nice man. Very smart, and somewhat reserved. He was born in St. Vincent West Indies, and lived on other islands in the Caribbean until he immigrated to the US with my mom in 1960. He got his bachelor's degree at McGill and his Ph.D in biochemistry at Columbia. He was a professor of biochemistry and chair of the biology dept. at St. John's for many years. His real passion was music. He was a talented pianist and gave numerous recitals in Barbados and St. Vincent as a young man. Our house was always filled with music, mostly classical (Chopin was a favorite) but also modern American standards such as Cole Porter and Gershwin. I think he had an immigrant's love and appreciation for American music and art forms such as musical theater. He would occasionally accompany Jon Nielsen who liked to sing or could be found. He could also be found at impromptu "jams" at a neighbor's who was a jazz pianist and whose sons played flute and trumpet.
He's the author of one book, Basic Biochemical Procedures and Computing. He loved all things computer and bought the original mac computer the minute it came out. I think if he had been born twenty years later he might have been a computer scientist. His fatal flaw was his stubbornness in avoiding medical attention despite having a best friend who is a colorectal surgeon and my husband and I are physicians although I'm no longer in practice. He died of colon cancer which was metastatic at diagnosis because he ignored the obvious symptoms until it was too late. He was 70 when he died in 2001 (don't put off a colonoscopy!).

Yvonne Jack
 Valerie Jack and Marcy on the right (16x24)
The Jack family lived close to our family friend and fellow artist, Jon Nielsen, which is how the connection was made.  As Marcy tells it,  "I remember the portrait seeming like it was taking forever although I'm sure it didn't. I think I must have fidgeted a lot because I vaguely remember someone telling me to sit still or keep the same position. I must have been playing with my hair because I remember one of the artists sort of laughing at the end of the day and saying that he or she had my braids either both in back or both in front while your mom had one in back and one in front. That must have been one of my nicer dresses or I really liked it because I also wore it in at least one school photo and back then it seems like kids used to dress up on picture day.

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